Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sharlot Hall Museum complex chronicles Prescott's early history

A few short blocks from the plaza in downtown Prescott, Arizona, the Sharlot Hall Museum’s assemblage of historic buildings and permanent collections makes it the largest museum complex in central Arizona.

Changing exhibits illustrate the early days of Prescott and the Arizona Territory. The museum staff, actors, and volunteers also present a variety of live programs such as festivals, theatre performances, and living history reenactments that depict the area’s rich regional heritage.

Housing the first territorial governor, the Governor’s ”Mansion” (actually a rustic cabin, but a mansion by mid-1860’s standards, compared to the tents, wagons, and crude cabins in which the rest of Prescott’s citizens lived) was built on this site in 1864 from Ponderosa pine logs cut in the surrounding forest. Sharlot Hall moved into the mansion in 1927 and opened it as a museum a year later.

The museum buildings include the Fremont House built in 1875, home of John Charles Fremont while he served as Arizona’s fifth Territorial Governor, and Fort Misery built in 1863-64--the oldest standing log building in the Arizona Territory.

Scattered around the museum grounds you will also find replicas of a typical ranch house and a schoolhouse of the period, an authentic 1885 iron turbine windmill relocated from a local ranch, a vehicle collection featuring Sharlot Hall’s 1927 Star, and a variety of gardens including the Rose Garden with over 260 rose bushes honoring Arizona’s pioneer women. Located at 415 West Gurley Street in Prescott.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wickenburg, the "most western town" keeps old West alive

Voted the "Most Western" town in the west, the Arizona community of Wickenburg has atmosphere.

A couple of years ago, True West magazine, put Wickenburg in the "Top 10 List of True Western Towns of 2008."

In the mid-1800s Henry Wickenburg came to the area in search of gold and discovered the Vulture Mine, where over $30 million in gold was found. There are still relics around the area that stand as a tribute to these early adventurers as well as a walking tour around Vulture Mine, according to the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce.

Wickenburg's western attractions have called tourists to come "Out Wickenburg Way" since the 1930s. To add a contemporary touch with an affectionate nod to its history, the town commissioned realistic life-size bronze sculptures that are threaded through the old section of town.

The sculptures are a series of six old western characters and 16 linking animal pieces by renowned artist J. Seward Johnson. The artist's work is in private and public collections around the world.

An added feature is that each large sculpture includes a button with a narrative on the history of the area.

The public art includes "Jail Tree Felon" that depicts "the use of the large mesquite tree as a place to chain prisoners in early Wickenburg days until they could be transported to the nearest jail in Prescott. It is located at the Jail Tree Park on Tegner Street (Hwy-93) by Chaparral Ice Cream Parlor and Circle K."

"Vaquero with Guitar" provided "an evening serenade to downtown visitors in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He strums on Wickenburg Way (Hwy-60) in front of the Gold Nugget Lounge."

The 16 smaller bronzes "depict local desert creatures including gila monsters, roadrunners, tarantulas and rattlesnakes. They provide linkage between the six major pieces."

If you go:
Cost: Free
Hours: 24/7
Phone: (800) 942-5242

Photos: From top: 'Jail Tree Felon,' 'Vaquero with Guitar,'and 'Gila Monster.' Julianne Crane

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tour and campground reservations now accepted at Kartchner Caverns State Park

Reservations are now being accepted for Kartchner Caverns State Park cave tours and campsites.

Kartchner Caverns is a stunning limestone cave discovered in 1974 in Southeastern Arizona that opened to the public in 1999. The cave flourishes underground with 99 percent humidity, while the desert above it's only ten percent.

The caverns feature a variety of 32 different calcite formations created by the water percolating down through the desert's the surface.

Cave tours can be booked one year in advance with Throne/Rotunda and Big Room tours available all winter. The Big Room is closed Apr. 16-Oct 1 so the mother bats can roost and raise their young in that part of the cavern, and the Rotunda/Throne Room is closed to allow for scientific monitoring and assessment from October 10 through December 14.

Prices for the tours are $22.95 for adults and $12.95 for children age (7-13) and customers may book up to a maximum of 20 tickets. Tours run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

A two loop Campground is located off of the main road past the Discovery Center on the southwest end of the park. Camping fees are $25 per night.

The park's Discovery Center features museum exhibits, a large gift shop, regional displays, a theater, educational information about the caverns and the surrounding landscape. There are also hiking trails, lockers, shaded picnic areas, a cafe, an amphitheater, and a hummingbird garden. For more information call (602) 542-4174 (outside of metro area call toll-free at 800-285-0373) or visit